Hours after Kyle Rittenhouse was acquitted on all charges Friday, Fox News host Tucker Carlson announced that he would not only interview the teen on Monday, but also had a film crew following the 18-year-old throughout the murder trial as part of an upcoming documentary for Fox Nation.
In a clip that aired Friday night, a smiling Rittenhouse told the film crew he was relieved to be acquitted, more than a year after he fatally shot two people and wounded a third amid unrest over a police shooting in Kenosha, Wis.
“The jury reached the correct verdict,” Rittenhouse said. “Self-defense is not illegal.”
Conservative lawmakers and right-leaning media celebrated the jury’s verdict, but Mark Richards, one of Rittenhouse’s attorneys, said he did not want Carlson’s film crew to be embedded with the defense team throughout a trial that was so fiercely divisive for many.
“I did not approve of that,” Richards told CNN’s Chris Cuomo of the film crew. “I threw them out of the room several times. I don’t think a film crew is appropriate for something like this.”
Richards said part of the efforts by Rittenhouse’s family and a family adviser to raise money to help pay for the 18-year-old’s defense included having Carlson’s team present for filming. The attorney described the film crew’s presence as “a definite distraction.”
“And I didn’t approve of it, but I’m not always the boss,” he told CNN.
Justin Wells, a senior executive producer with Carlson’s show, said in a statement that neither the network nor the streaming service “paid for any access, footage rights, legal fees or made any other payments in the production of the episode on the Kyle Rittenhouse trial.”
The network said in a Friday news release that the documentary airing sometime next month on Fox Nation “will include additional portions of the [Rittenhouse] interview as well as exclusive behind-the-scenes access to Rittenhouse and his defense team.”
The attorney’s comments came at the conclusion of a case that stoked searing national debates over guns, race, vigilantism and self-defense. There were sporadic protests on Friday night in places including Portland, Ore., and Brooklyn that reflected the deep political divisions in the country.
While some on the left see him as a trigger-happy teenager who recklessly used an AR-15 rifle to escalate an already chaotic situation into the realm of deadly violence, some on the right have hailed him as a folk hero and a courageous vigilante. Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) called the acquittals “a miscarriage of justice,” and former president Donald Trump congratulated Rittenhouse, saying, “If that’s not self-defense, nothing is!”
The announcement of the Fox Nation documentary came a day after Judge Bruce Schroeder banned MSNBC from the Kenosha County Courthouse. Police reported that a man working for the cable news network — or a corporate sibling — was pulled over for a traffic violation this week and suspected of following the jury transport van. Schroeder, who had been critical of some of the media coverage of the trial, prohibited anyone with the network from being inside the courthouse for the jury deliberations.
A spokesperson for NBC News, a sister network of MSNBC’s, said in a statement Thursday to The Washington Post that the organization denied any intent to make contact with jurors.
On Fox News, Carlson, who has long supported Rittenhouse and commended the jury as “brave enough to reach the right and obvious conclusion,” said his film crew had been with the teen for days. In a clip that aired on “Tucker Carlson Tonight,” Rittenhouse, who is portrayed in a sympathetic light, said he has dreams about the shootings “every single night.”
“Once you finally do get to sleep, your dreams are about what happened, and you’re waking up in a dark, cold sweat,” he told Carlson’s film crew. “It’s quite scary, actually, because the dreams feel so real … and they’re all different, they’re the different scenarios that run through your head … like what could have happened, like what if I wasn’t alive?”
On CNN, Richards said he was satisfied with the jury’s verdict but also said there are “too many guns” in the United States.
“Are you worried that we’re making it too easy to kill in self-defense?” Cuomo asked.
Richards replied, “To me — and I know people will go nuts when I say this — but there’s too many guns in our society. And that might seem like a hollow statement coming from me. I do own firearms. I don’t conceal carry. I don’t want to carry a firearm. I think too many people run around with guns in our society.”
The defense attorney added that he wished “our society wasn’t perceived as being so dangerous that people needed to arm themselves.”
Richards repeated that Rittenhouse regretted traveling to Kenosha and joining a mass of armed civilians as the city was shaken by turmoil after a White police officer shot Jacob Blake, a Black man. Cuomo then asked the attorney whether Rittenhouse thought he did anything wrong.
“Legally, no,” Richards said.
“Morally?” Cuomo asked.
Richards responded, “He wishes he didn’t have to do it. … The narrative that came out was not the truth. At trial, it did come out.”
Richards acknowledged to CNN that he told his client about his discomfort with Carlson’s film crew being around and becoming, what Cuomo called, “an agent of animus.”
“Kyle’s going to have some hard choices in his life about the direction he goes and what he stands for,” Richards said. “Those will have to be made by Kyle, eventually.”